The dysfunction was so bad that reforming the Curia became a rallying cry for many cardinals at the conclave that elected Francis. But will he deliver on the promise of reform?
Much will depend on who Francis will choose as his top aides, starting from the appointments of the new heads of key Vatican offices. So far, he has reconfirmed the Curia leadership, but he has made it clear that this is just a provisional measure while he makes up his mind about his next steps.
“Be ready for some surprises. He is not afraid to pick up the phone to call up people and ask things. He is talking to everyone,” said a curial official who spoke on background because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the new pope’s consultations with cardinals and monsignors.
Those who know the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio well from his days as archbishop of Buenos Aires say Francis has a hands-off management style: He chooses people he trusts, even if they have views that differ from his own, and doesn’t micromanage.
“He’s good at trusting people and giving them space to get on with their work,” his former spokesman, the Rev. Guillermo Marco, told the British Catholic magazine The Tablet. “He’s not the kind of person who’s determined to do everything himself; he’s good at delegating ... He gave me a lot of freedom and he’s the same way with everybody.”
So how will that translate into reforming the Vatican? The pope’s answers to the following questions, many of which are expected in the coming weeks, will offer an early indication:
* Who will he choose as the new secretary of state?
This is probably the most important appointment Francis will have to make. This job is not like the American version: the Vatican secretary of state is more like the prime minister who really runs the administration. All other departments and offices have to go through the Terza Loggia (the third floor of the Apostolic Palace where the secretariat’s offices are located) for their decisions to be submitted to the pope and become operative.
In recent years, especially with the reclusive Benedict, this centralized chain of command has become a problem on its own.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone had the job under Benedict and was widely criticized for his management skills. A tradition initiated by Pope John Paul II holds that when a “straniero” (non-Italian) is on the seat of Peter, he should be assisted by an Italian secretary of state. But Francis might easily disregard it.
Another unscripted rule says that the Vatican’s number two should come from the ranks of papal diplomacy — the fact that Bertone lacked any diplomatic experience was one of the reasons for his poor performance, according to many.